Teenage angst made up a vast part of theatre at this year’s Fringe, particularly from young companies trying to make debut festival statements. It’s such a hard area to do well; mostly, companies will either make puerile theatre or will plummet into cliché when portraying young people. Davey Anderson and Thick Skin Theatre have attempted to redefine the genre with a gutsy multimedia performance.
Sparky (Brian Vernal) is very much a working-class hero. At fifteen, he’s frustrated by school and sex, driven to the point of expulsion by his teachers. Sharing his pain and hyperactivity is Siouxsie (Samantha Foley), a broken-home type who harbours tremendous feelings of guilt and shame. Suffice to say, their alienation brings them together, and they explore their sexually charged youth, both trying to understand (and control) the world around them.
The success of this show lies in its brave experimentation with physical theatre, dance and stage combat. It is dynamic, wondrous theatre-making at times which challenges how to express and even grasp our desire for love. The brisk choreographed routines are executed with meticulous precision and evoke the rage, confusion, frustration, but also beauty of relationships. In this sense, Anderson has embarked on a noble journey to deliver coming-of-age themes in a fresh and engaging way.
Despite this, there is space to push the show’s sinister heart even further, to explore how the black depths of jealousy and desire are frighteningly composite and constantly in flux. Though these motifs spring up, they become eclipsed by the fanciness of the physical theatre, which doesn’t give enough room to develop the secondary characters and really depict the intricacy of relationships. The routines produce some clunky visual metaphors about hormones and sex, which are too obvious in a piece dusted with subtle comments about maturity, illusions of power and sexual satisfaction. That being said, this is exciting, earthy theatre which tackles the electricity of young love and illuminates the dark corners of the adolescent psyche.